News Politics

Friday 29 August 2014

Flannery 'feels vindicated' as PAC can't compel him to appear

Shane Phelan

Published 18/07/2014 | 02:30

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Frank Flannery

FORMER Rehab Group chief Frank Flannery says he feels "vindicated" by a ruling that means he does not have to appear before the Dail's spending watchdog.

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The ex-Fine Gael election strategist is now considering legal steps to address the "reputational damage" he believes he has suffered as a result of his pursuit by the Public Accounts Committee.

The PAC has been seeking to quiz Mr Flannery about his involvement with the state-funded charity and commercial group, which he acted as a lobbyist for in recent years.

It wanted to quiz both Mr Flannery and his successor as chief executive, Angela Kerins, who had also refused to appear before the committee.

However, the Dail rules body, the Committee on Privileges and Procedures (CPP), ruled on Wednesday night that the PAC could not compel Mr Flannery and Ms Kerins to attend as it would be acting outside its remit.

"Obviously I am happy with the decision arrived at by the CPP. It represents what I personally always understood the reality was," Mr Flannery told the Irish Independent.

He added that he was now "looking at all my options", having previously complained damage had been caused to his reputation and that his rights as a private citizen under the Constitution were being infringed.

Despite the CPP decision, it is highly unlikely Mr Flannery will return to the Fine Gael fold.

He resigned as a party trustee earlier this year following his refusal to appear before the spending watchdog.

It is understood there has been no contact between him and the party hierarchy since he quit in March. Mr Flannery resigned from the Rehab board at the same time.

Controversy

The move followed controversy over his refusal to appear at the committee as well as disclosures he was paid €351,000 by Rehab for lobbying the Government and other work over a six-year period. Mr Flannery's refusal to attend the committee caused considerable embarrassment for Fine Gael, particularly when it was revealed he had been in the Leinster House restaurant while the hearing he was invited to was ongoing.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny reiterated yesterday that he had urged Mr Flannery to co-operate with the committee, but said the CPP had made a clear ruling that it was "not entitled to allow for compellability where the law does not apply".

Ms Kerins was unavailable for comment last night. She appeared before the committee earlier this year, but retired unexpectedly in April from her €240,000 job.

The PAC called on her to give further testimony after some members expressed dissatisfaction with the information she provided. However, Ms Kerins declined, citing illness.

In legal correspondence, she later claimed the PAC's inquiry was "unlawful" and that certain members of the committee were biased against her.

The CPP decided that as Rehab Group is not audited by the Comptroller & Auditor General, it was not within the PAC's remit to compel witnesses associated with the charity.

At a private session of the PAC yesterday, the committee resolved to seek a widening of its powers.

Irish Independent

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